Opening on Friday 30 June 2023, IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) presents the first solo exhibition in Ireland by renowned American artist Howardena Pindell. Pindell is an artist, activist, and educator working through the media of painting, drawing, print and video. Primarily an abstract painter, she emerged in the early 1970s in New York, making process-driven abstractions, embellishing the language of minimalism – of circles, grids and repetition – in a visibly laborious process of hole-punching, spraying, sewing, and numbering. The exhibition, titled A Renewed Language, is the largest presentation of her work in Europe to date.
Born in Philadelphia in 1943, Pindell began her career in the 1960s. Having studied painting at Boston and Yale Universities she became an Exhibition Assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1967, rising to Associate Curator and Acting Director, and serving on the Byers Committee to investigate racial exclusion in museum acquisitions and exhibitions. She first exhibited her art in 1971, and was a founding member of A.I.R (Artists in Residence), the first women’s cooperative gallery in New York City. In 1979 she began teaching at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, where she is now a distinguished Professor of Art. She rose to prominence throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had her first major solo exhibition at the Studio Museum, Harlem in 1986.
Trained as a figurative painter, Pindell began working abstractly in the 1960s. She started drawing and layering, a process that grew on its own and developed into the abstract works she is known for today. Her growing use of abstraction coincided with the famous “dematerialization” of the art object, the emergence of conceptual art as a movement that prioritized thought over form.
From the 1980s Pindell’s practice began to deal explicitly with issues of racism and discrimination, her work took on a more overtly political tenor, which anticipated the Black Lives Matter movement by thirty years. Pindell deals with issues including colonisation and enslavement, violence against indigenous populations, police brutality, the AIDS crisis and climate change.
Alongside paintings and works on paper, the exhibition includes two videos that frame her long career – Free, White and 21 (1980) and Rope/Fire/Water (2020). These works tackle the pervasiveness of racial inequality, drawing on Pindell’s own experiences and also on her collation of historical data relating to segregation, discrimination and race-based violence in America.
The exhibition includes new paintings fresh from Pindell’s studio, just shown in New York in 2022. These new works show Pindell circling back to some of her concerns of the early 1970s and 80s. These ‘cut and sewn’ canvases are a celebration of colour. Here Pindell expands on the scale of her paper pieces, bringing new depth and texture to her surfaces. The making of individual panels and sewing them together, is a novel and labour-intensive method of construction. The work is unstretched and pinned to the wall and harks back to her 1970s works in which she took canvas off the stretcher to create new shapes that speak of the form and function of the painted ground. These monumental works mark the artist’s return to the grid—a theme of particular interest to Pindell and other modern artists.
Pindell’s work encompasses her own story with abstraction joined to a sense of social and political urgency and an understanding that the pressures, prejudices and exclusions she faced as a black artist and a woman needed to be part of the subject of her art. Pindell considers her abstract paintings as “an intense relief, a kind of visual healing, so that you get some distance from what you’ve seen. Then you can have a more peaceful or critical way to acknowledge what you’ve seen. And it helps you maybe overcome some of those deadly emotions that come from being shocked. So I want people to see… It’s like using beauty as a healing element, and for me making them has a healing side to it.”
A keynote talk on Howardena Pindell will be presented by Naomi Beckwith, Chief Curator, Guggenheim, NYC, offering reflection on lessor known feminist art histories and identity politics that underpins the arc of Pindell’s extraordinary live and career as artist, curator and educator. The talk is followed by an in-depth discussion with Annie Fletcher, Director, IMMA. The talk takes place on Saturday 8 July at 12noon at IMMA. Book here.
A Renewed Language had its origins in Howardena Pindell: A New Language, organised by the Fruitmarket, Edinburgh; in collaboration with Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; and Spike Island, Bristol.
29 June 2023
– Ends –
For further information and images please contact:
Monica Cullinane | [email protected]
Additional Notes for Editors
Title: Howardena Pindell: A Renewed Language
Exhibition Dates: 30 June – 30 October 2023
Admission free, book online at imma.ie
Open: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10am – 5.30pm. Wednesday: 11.30am – 5.30pm. Sunday: 12noon – 5.30pm. Bank Holiday Mondays: 12noon – 5.30pm
Keynote Talk: Naomi Beckwith on Howardena Pindell’s Renewed Language
Saturday 8 July 2023 / 12noon to 1.15pm
Booking required – Book here
Location: People’s Pavilion at IMMA
To coincide with the exhibition Howardena Pindell: A Renewed Language IMMA presents a keynote talk by Naomi Beckwith, Chief Curator, Guggenheim, NYC. This talk examines some of the most inspiring works of figuration, abstraction and conceptualism by Howardena Pindell; offering reflection on lessor known feminist art histories and identity politics that underpins the arc of Pindell’s extraordinary live and dual career as artist, curator and educator. Followed by an in-depth discussion with Annie Fletcher, Director, IMMA.
About Howardena Pindell
Howardena Pindell, born in Philadelphia in 1943, began her career in the 1960s. Having studied art at Boston and Yale Universities she became an Exhibition Assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1967, rising to Associate Curator and serving on the Byers Committee to investigate racial exclusion in museum acquisitions and exhibitions. She first exhibited her art in 1971, and was a founding member of A.I.R (Artists in Residence), the first women’s cooperative gallery in New York City. Resigning from MoMA in 1979, she became a professor in the Art Department at Stony Brook University, where she still teaches today.
She rose to prominence throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had a major solo exhibition at the Studio Museum, Harlem in 1986. In 1992, Howardena Pindell: A Retrospective, her first solo touring exhibition, brought her art and writing together and in 1997, she published The Heart of the Question, an anthology of her written works. She was included in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007; in We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at Tate both in 2017; and The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented her first major US survey exhibition, Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen in 2018. In 2020, an exhibition of new work at The Shed, New York showed recent work against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and growing international outrage at anti-Black state violence in the US and elsewhere, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.